Post-COVID Chinese Restaurants

  1. Wok and Roll:
    1. How has the business been after COVID-19 ?— It has been a tough era to cope with, but with the gradual opening up of businesses, customers are coming back.
    1. What is one difficulty you as the owner encountered ?—The main issue is the lack of government support, if my restaurant goes out of business tomorrow, who is there to provide housing and other benefits to my family?
    1. What other things do you want to say ?—Since we are a American Chinese food based place, we wish there could be more American customers coming to eat despite the fact that we know the COVID issue might have put stereotypes on us.

2. Beyond the Wok:

  1. How has the business been after COVID-19 ?—Business is as usual with a boost in customer satisfaction occasionally. Much of the customers here are Chinese students and international faculty since we are a newly opened joint in auburn and we provide AUTHENTIC Chinese food.
  2. What is one difficulty you as the owner encountered ?—One issue is the lack of delivery people to bring takeout food to the doorstep, sometimes the time would take up to nearly 30min on delivery.
  3. What other things do you want to say ?—Since we are a new restaurant here in auburn and a very authentic one tested out by the local Chinese, we do not have any shortages of customers. Welcome to try our dishes, you will like it.

3. Wooden Chopsticks:

  1. How has the business been after COVID-19 ?—Business is okay but we are struggling in some way due to the extremely high rent and the expense to maintain a large crew and other utilities.
  2. What is one difficulty you as the owner encountered ?—Basically how to keep up with the rent and other utilities is what we worry about during such a time.
  3. What other things do you want to say ?—Since the Beyond the Wok restaurant opened much of the Chinese population has been taken away by their popularity, but we still could maintain a healthy amount of income even with the no indoor dining regulations.

4. Fuji Restaurant and Sushi Bar:

  1. How has the business been after COVID-19 ?—Business is as usual, there hasn’t been any significant changes during those times. we continue to serve both Chinese customers and local people with Chinese food and fresh sushi.
  2. What is one difficulty you as the owner encountered ?—So far so good, we have yet to meet any difficulties.
  3. What other things do you want to say ?—On a broader extent I just hope all this mess the pandemic has made can be over soon, life needs to get back to normal.

Link to short video (On Tiktok): American Chinese and authentic Chinese

As the issue of COVID-19 continue to affect the United States, more and more people began to believe that Chinese food is poisonous. My project is to take a look at the cuisines those restaurants serve and to ensure that they are free of diseases. Tracing back the history of Chinese people in the United States, it is not hard to find that ethnic Chinese began to take discrimination after the Chinese Exclusion Act first got approved. Despite the government’s effort to ease the pressure on the situation, the public did not respond swiftly, leaving traces of left over racism. After interviewing much of the owners, I have a strong sense that racism still resides among us, Through the short clip I just wanted to prove that there is nothing to fear as our food is clean and yummy. Chinese people should earn more respect than they have now since they are the ones who actively provide jobs to communities through the establishment of restaurants and gives back much needed supplies like face masks to their community during a crisis.

The Future of Public History

When I interviewed Dr. Rosengarten, I asked him, “do you think of yourself as a public historian?” He told me, “I don’t think of myself as a historian in the first place. I am an educator first.” And then he asked me, ““isn’t every history a public history?” I did not answer him at the moment. But is every part of history is public history?
When I tried to define public history, the first thing to jump out of my mind was not some museums, memorials, or something else. It was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The history should be the same as a government. Every time I think of public history, it was always about people. For a public historian, the works should be about the people and for the people. The word “public” always comes first. And the public is the people. An ancient story about historians was told in the Zuo Zhuan, a Chinese narrative history written in the 400 B.C. The story was about a historian’s family stayed in truth for the history and the people. The story inspired me since I was a child, and when I writing history, I was always asking myself, who is my audience.
Community history should be a big part of the future of public history. And this community is not only a physical term. It was also meant the virtual community. Because of the internet, people who had the same interests can form their very own communities. Two people sitting apart from the world can communicate the same interests they had. One luckiest thing I have is I can communicate in Chinese, a language that has the largest online communities. It was always fascinating to find some online forums that were built for people who have the least popular hobbies. I did spend quite a time in a lot of different online communities, and in the last thirty years of internet history, a lot of interesting things happened that can be part of writing history. It can help people to learn from each other. But there are also some disadvantages of these online forums. It supposes be exists until the world ends (the Internet was designed for nuclear wars, so I guess it could last after the world end,) but the servers of these forums can be removed, shut down, or any other reason which can make them disappear forever. And unlike archives that can be stored in physical evidence, a shutdown forums meat most of the staff in the serve would disappear forever.
I believe for future public history, the method of transform the information would be more important than other things. Podcasts, Tiktoks could become the next tool for public historians to record and transmit history. It could be a new way of “writing” history. If public history is built on the memories people shared, then the memorials of social media are definitely would become part of history in the future.

Evolution of Auburn History

I have been a member of the Auburn family since the day I was born. Both of my parents attended Auburn in the 90s, and as alumni, weekends in the Fall growing-up were spent on the Plains. I believe this gives me a unique perspective on the evolution of Auburn’s campus and the way our history is displayed. I cannot say that I have always been particularly attentive to history on campus, but what I can say is that I certainly have noticed over the years how campus has evolved and has seemingly become more open about its own storied history.

As a child, the history told on campus always seemed to be centered around how great Auburn (white) men were and their contributions to society. The only people of color that were talked about were athletes, and women were almost entirely not mentioned. Being that I was raised in an “Alt-Right” conservative household, I was discouraged from inquiring into the more meaningful histories of Auburn as they may paint the university in a “bad light.” As time passed, however, I began to think for myself and realized Auburn was leaving out a lot of its own history. There weren’t any discussions about the legacy of racism and hate on campus and the symbols of that hate that were prominently displayed, i.e., the Lathe.

Now, while there still aren’t many, there are monuments and/or historic markers to people of color and women that have begun the discussion and recognition of a more accurate Auburn history and its legacy in dealing with racism and discrimination. I think this is a step in the right direction in attempting to heal and lead to a brighter future on Auburn’s campus.

Interviewing the Prior Generation

For this interview exercise, I interviewed my father Victor Rodriguez Sr. Regarding the process of administering the questions, the choice of interviewing my father gave the interview an informal, casual feel with a free-flowing conversation. This allowed us to discuss personal and intimate topics without having to go into prior detail. What context was needed, I provided during the interview process. Due to our good relationship, there were no personal, intellectual, or economic boundaries that needed to be overcome to obtain honest answers to the interview questions. I also chose my father because he is an educated and economically successful man with moderate opinions about history, his community, and current global events. He also had moderate emotional responses to the questions, which provided for balanced answers. His background as a handyman and as an engineer who has worked in the heart of Silicon Valley for over thirty years provided me with unique information about the tech industry, history of the tech industry, and the development of our home town San Jose, all of which was discussed during the interview. Interviewing my father allowed me to gain the perspective of a middle-class college education individual who grew up during the mid-twentieth century.

The drawbacks of this interview include a range of issues. First, my father and I have similar opinions about many of the topics covered in the interview. This could have created an inherent biased during the interview that was not challenged. There is also the possibility that because I am his son, the interviewee withheld, omitted, or altered certain responses to maintain the boundaries of our relationship. Less of a drawback and more of a facet of this particular interview: the fact that my father is from a certain background, profession, educational level, and generation influenced his answers. This makes the interview valuable to a certain type of research topic, such as the historical perspectives of baby boomer Mexican-American Californians, college-educated in the Bay Area, with backgrounds in engineering and business. If I were to conduct this interview again, I would be interested to learn about the historical perspectives of someone from my own generation. That being said, I found the interview informative about not only my father’s background, values, and historical perspectives, but also the area we call home, and how the period he grew up in influenced his perspective on the importance of history.

A Virtual Perspective of the History of Auburn University

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have not yet seen the Auburn University campus. However, through my own research and my time as a student in Public History (6810) I have constructed some historical sense of the university. During the summer of 2019, I was lucky enough to have a phone conversation with Drs. Roger Launius and Monique Laney about doctoral programs in the history of science and technology. Dr. Launius recommended several including Auburn’s Ph.D. program in the History of Technology. After conducting my own research, I applied to Auburn’s Ph.D. program because of its reputation in the concentration of US space and aerospace history. History faculty members are nationally (and in some cases internationally known) for their focus on the history of technology, their association with the National Air and Space Museum, and for their books. For example, Professor Emeritus James R. Hansen’s biography on Neil Armstrong First Man was recently turned into a movie starring Ryan Gosling. In addition, the History of Science Society and the Society of the History of Technology both rank Auburn University as the ‘number 2’ university to study the history of science and(or) technology. (If this ranking holds credence with you, it helps show the historical importance of the university as a place of study for historians.)
As a student in Public History, I have also learned that Auburn University also has a reputation as a center for the preservation of white supremacy and the memory of the Civil War Lost Cause. The landscape of the campus has been utilized to memorialize white supremacists and symbolize the South’s loss of the Civil War. Broun Hall is named after William Leroy Broun a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army, Comer Hall is named after Braxton Bragg Comer who continued the practice of slave labor after through the use of convicts, and Graves Amphitheater was governor of Alabama and “almost certainly” the “Exalted Cyclops” of the Ku Klux Klan chapter in Montgomery. I also understand that there is a canon outside a fraternity building that is pointed north at the Union. I understand that this information is neither new nor original, yet, acknowledging this history will allow students, faculty, and staff to perhaps emphasize alternate dimensions of Auburn’s community history that relates to its past in a more positive light. A public historical acknowledgment of Auburn’s influence on space history, or civil rights may be necessary to replace this darker memorialization that characterizes the campus’s landscape. As a student of color who is from out-of-state, I am personally proud to be a new member of the Auburn community that appears to be intentionally focused on diversifying its student body.

A COVID Oral History With a History Professor

I interviewed my housemate William Schultz about his experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schultz is an adjunct history instructor at Evergreen Valley College, and is a graduate of European Master of Art’s program at San Jose State University—the same history program where I received my two degrees. I consider him a friend and a colleague. Since the California lockdown began in mid-March, his daily life shifted dramatically. Originally teaching an in-person course, he had to alter his course to a completely online environment like all other college instructors for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.

Schultz led a relatively active social life prior to the COVID pandemic, but like many other Californians, finds himself confined to his home both voluntarily and as a result of the reduction of public social activities. His social circle has retracted to his family, one or two friends, and his fellow housemates—myself and my fiancée.

The COVID pandemic has also drastically altered his travel plans. Due to the travel ban placed on the United States by Europe, Schultz has had to postpone his trip to Europe. In addition, his road trip plans with friends was also cancelled due.

Like nearly everyone else in the country, he now heavily relies on technology (especially a strong wifi single) to maintain his social life, and teach his online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. Schultz expects to continue teaching online until the Fall 2021 semester. As a historian, Schultz expects this pandemic to eventually go away as have other epidemics. However, he is also aware that it may take more time than most people are aware or comfortable with. This shift in lifestyle must be maintained if we as a country and a species wish to eradicate with illness, yet Schultz does not want people to despair. He explains, “this is going to be a long term, but temporary problem the world will eventually return to normal. [We] will find a solution. I see a lot of people on the internet that despair about COVID, and think this is their new way of life. Life will eventually go back to normal. I am a historian, not a fortune teller, but knowing history, I know this period will eventually come to an end.” So, we can all take comfort in that. Take care of yourself and the people around you. Wash your hands and practice social distancing until a vaccine is distributed.

Monuments and the Role of the Public Historian

Historical monuments are built to symbolize a single, or two-dimensional narrative of history. They are created to propagate a version of history that may be true or not. In many cases, historical statues are created to enhance a historical mythos. To paraphrase a favorite late comedian of mine, they are “symbols for the symbol minded.” That being said, how are we to address the daunting question: “What should be do with historical monuments if they’re removed?” Or more simply, “what are we to do with historical monuments?” As public historians it is our duty to contextualize all history and artifacts, providing perspective and historical complexity to those who are willing to listen. Yet, because many of these monuments were designed to commemorate a singular narrative, the role of the public historian and the purpose of the monument may clash, especially within the public sphere.

This possibility slips into the realm of probability with the more controversial ones, such as the ones in the United States commemorating Confederate military and political figures. Many of those monuments were created to memorialize men that fought for the romanticized Lost Cause, and the culture of white supremacy that characterized late 19th century America.
Historical documentation shows us in numerous pieces such as the Confederate Constitution, Jefferson Davis’ presidential address, and many other Confederate leaders’ writings that the sole purpose of the Confederacy was the preservation of slavery. Therefore, public historians and the institutions that employ them would feel compelled to not only discuss the popular memory of these monuments, but also the uncomfortable reality behind their inception and the brutal truth behind the founding of the Confederacy. The merging of popular memory with academic history could become a messy affair in the middle of a public square. To quote everyone’s favorite fictional archeologist, “It belongs in a museum.” In the controlled environment of a museum could the monuments be maintained and proper contextualization be administered. In a museum, a monuments complete history could be address and discussed to a public more willing to listen to its complicated past.

Public History Blog

During this semester, the class often discussed the role of the museum and the role of public historians within the community at large. Like most things in the modern era, the field of public history continues to go through immense and rapid changes. Within the past two decades alone, public historians have had to expand their occupations to account for new circumstances. From revolutions of the digital age, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes in social consciousness, public historians have had to adapt–and often deviate– from traditional methods of practice.

Moving into the future, this ability to change will become critical to preserving public history. While incidents such as COVID-19 may be a temporary hindrance for public historians, technological changes and social consciousness create more prominent obstacles for historians.

Since the twenty-first century alone, technology has entered a period of rapid advancement. Media, graphics, audio, hardware, and technological capability are just a few of the largest changes. Though these changes have changed the way that individuals consume media, it also has drastically changed how they consume media. Physiologically and psychologically, the digital age has changed how the human brain processes and engages with information. In the modern area, individuals experience immense pressure to multi-task which can lead to the impression that attention spans are shorter. Though that is not the case, public historians will need to find ways to account for changes in consumer engagement. In the future, historians will also have to find ways to create a balance between digital history and more traditional methods.

The shifts in social consciousness is something that will be more difficult, but none the less necessary, for public historians to adapt and account for. Increasingly, gaps in existing narratives are becoming apparent. From the exclusion of certain voices and individuals, selective narratives, collective memories, and changes in moral opinion, public ideas are changing. One of the responsibilities of the public historian will be interpreting these pieces to created updated and more inclusive narratives. Outside of determining whose voices are selected within a narrative, their efforts will also have to take a more proactive role. Their efforts will also concern selected artifacts, highlighted displays, special programs, literature, and even becoming more outspoken on certain political matters. Two such examples are the controversy within the collections housed at the British Museum as well as the monument debates in the United States. As tensions increase, public historians will not be able to afford to remain passive and silent on certain issues as many have been in the past.

A third change that organizations will need to account for are the changes to economical conditions. Within public history, budgets have generally been small. Outside of larger institutions and collectives, organizations are often reliant on patrons, public support, grants, and gift shop sales to support their collections and staff. These already tight budgets have been increased by both political shifts as well as COVID-19. Though the economic effects of the virus have been felt across practically every aspect of society, many establishments have had to permanently close. Because of these economic hits, funding will be even tighter. Patrons, donors, and grant givers will also experience their own economic struggles. These struggles will translate directly to the benefactors in the public history sphere. Self supporting organizations, or those funded by consumer interactions, are receiving less–to no–income from visitors which is placing strains on reserve funds and future budgets. These economic effects will be felt for years to come.

The world is a complex place and it is impossible for organizations to make contingency plans for every future circumstance. Overall, the future of public history will rely on organizations, and individuals, abilities and willingness to adapt to a changing world. New technologies create not only new potential means of outreach, but new concerns for engagement. New social climates will require extended representation in preexisting narratives as well as engaging with new consciousness. Public history organizations are dependent on economic foundations for normal occupational practices but with strained budgets looming on the horizon, establishments will need to be able to prepare and account for more limited resources.

The Future of Public History

Over the course of this semester, we have consumed ourselves with questions of what public history is and how we should approach the field, so it seems natural that our parting question should be, “Where do we go from here?” Although the most prominent historical problem facing our current society are issues of Confederate memorials across the nation, I would instead like to focus on how museums react to complicated histories and relate this information to the public.

James Gardner’s speech for the National Association of Public History asks these questions concerning his position at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History: “How do we tell history as it really was rather than as we wish it had been? How do we as public historians avoid yielding to our own insecurities and keep focused on interpreting history? How do we do good history instead of spending all our time worrying about whom we might offend?” (12) These are not easy questions to answer, and I think every single historian, both public and otherwise, knows that there WILL be offended people, no matter how politically correct or neutral the exhibit.

While it is a complex problem for an undergraduate history major to approach, there are a few fundamental steps that public-facing historical institutions like museums could take to ensure widespread support. As we read at the beginning of the year, many institutions reissued mission statements to realign themselves with preserving minority historical records; the Alabama State Archives acknowledged their position as a mostly white organization in need of more artifact diversity. The Statement of Recommitment was a smart move for an institution steeped in historical racism and originally grounded itself in preserving Confederate history. In our current political climate, it is necessary for those places concerned with public-facing historical interpretation to maintain positive representation both in the media and the populace. While statements such as these must also be backed by action to mean anything, it is a step in the right direction to acknowledge the flawed history of a department devoted to preserving Alabama history.

Another route that many museums have begun taking in the past few decades is collecting and presenting the narratives of minorities and historically oppressed peoples. Rather than focusing solely on stories that have been told countless times, many museums are working to reinterpret the past through the lens of those who have often been silenced. The Smithsonian’s two newest museums, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian (both built within the past twenty years), are examples of a new dedication to these victims of America’s past. Their historical artifacts and exhibitions present an important narrative of American history that has been overlooked since the professionalization of history; the origins of historic preservation as an upper-class white pastime did not bode well for either Native Americans or African Americans before more modern issues of representation were raised.

All of this boils down to one basic tenant that public history must continue to value – representation. Institutions must continue to acknowledge past shortcomings and work to remedy them to maintain public support in uncertain social climates and continue progressing their historical education.

Final Student Projects

Here are links to final student projects for Fundamentals of Public History, Fall 2020.
Laura King “North Alabama Lynchings: Violence & Terror in the Mining District 1890-1921

Kyle Munroe and Jack West “Early Black Experiences in Auburn

Joseph Hyatt and Jack Smith “Cuneiform: The Writing System of Ancient Kings

John Bryant “Lynching Sites in Mobile and Baldwin County, Alabama

Deanna Berryman and Hamilton Medley “Hidden Histories: Memorials on Auburn University’s Campus”